As human beings we all go through tough times, situations and experiences which not only affect our lives but also shape our lives with respect to our relationship with people, our work and many other things.
Our celebrities are also not exempted from such situations and experiences for they are also human and they also have a past. Now we have many celebrities especially the women opening up about their past and their lives, with many such as Oprah Winfrey who shook the world with her story. And many have followed suit to speak up about themselves and their history and such is the case of The Real’s Jeannie Mai.
As a kid living in San Jose, California, with her parents Olivia and James, Jeannie had a traumatising experience which today she can speak about without much pain. At the age of 9, little Jeannie Mai was sexually abused by a family member, a teenager relative of hers for five years.
The abuser was supposed to be her babysitter as her Vietnamese immigrant parents were both very busy; with her mother Olivia working as a secretary and wedding singer while her father James was a supervisor at IBM.
She recounts the occurrence as being traumatising as her mother did not believe her when she spoke about the abuse. She said, “The first time I was told as a child that what I saw or felt wasn’t true, that was the first time I learned not to trust myself. When I look at the five years that he abused me, I believed him over myself. Then, when I looked to my mom for help, her dismissing of the situation taught me to dismiss my intuition.”
Jeannie’s life has been one marked with remnants of her traumatic past as she says, “I have anxiety with social situations and trust issues today that follow me everywhere I go.”
Her escape from home at the age of 16 marked the beginning of her transition into a new world. From working as a make-up artist at a strip club in San Francisco and earning $50 a month, to her job at Mac Cosmetics, to hosting fashion Tv shows and then to her joining The Real. She has been through many phases in her work and gone through a long journey to get to where she is today. Now she has a YouTube show named Hello Hunnay.
In May of this year, Jeannie had a raw conversation with her mother on her YouTube show where they sorted out their differences and spoke from the heart, with her mother finally admitting to the situation and apologising for her mistake while also speaking about the fact that she came from a family with an abusive father. Jeannie said, “That episode was monumental for me and my mom. She owned that was young and didn’t have the answers, and that healed me.”
With the issues ironed out between them and a new friendship found, Jeannie and her mother have now become closer than ever and even attend therapy sessions together whilst encouraging the family to be more open about their emotional life and state.
Now she runs a podcast named Listen Hunnay which is produced by Studio71 and there she gets to interview experts on issues such as mental health, divorce and other things. With her past experience as fuel, she has been a great fighter against sex-trafficking as she’s producing a documentary on it titled Stopping Trafficking 2, a sequel to the first part Stopping Trafficking: The Movement to End Sex Trafficking.
According to her, sex trafficking is not just a thing of the word outside the United States and that the victims of such abuse need to be taken care of properly and ensured that their reintroduction to the society is successful so that they can live normally as they used to. She hopes to create more awareness to the issue for she understands what they go through as she was also a victim of abuse.
Jeannie says, “As a victim of sexual abuse, there are things that I’ll never get back, like my childhood, my innocence.”
To her, her outlet has become her mission.